Sports Magazine

Game 41: Rockies @ Pirates 05.20.16

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
Game preview:
"Rockies-Pirates Preview
7:05 PM ET
Line: PIT -215
COL: Butler (2-1 , 4.74 ERA) PIT: Cole (4-3 , 3.05 ERA)
Pick Center
2040 tickets available
12:24 AM ET
There's not much separating the Colorado Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates right now, be it the hovering-around-.500 records, similar run differentials, excellent lineups or bad bullpens.
When they've faced each other lately, things couldn't be much different.
Gerrit Cole will try to pitch the Pirates to an eighth straight win over the Rockies on Friday night as Colorado hits the middle series of what's looking like a brutal nine-game road trip.
Pittsburgh (22-18) and Colorado (20-20) both have to be feeling better at the 40-game mark than they were a year ago. The Pirates were 18-22 at the quarter pole in 2015 before going on to win 98 games, while the Rockies' 15-25 mark at that point was a more accurate precursor to the 94 losses they'd finish with.
They entered Thursday's action separated by just a game in the standings, with the Pirates holding a two-run edge while Pittsburgh and Colorado ranked 1-2 in the NL in batting average and among the bottom four in bullpen ERA.
But perhaps the best version of the Pirates came out Thursday while the worst version of the Rockies was on display in St. Louis. Pittsburgh jumped on Atlanta for five runs in the first two innings en route to an 8-2 win while Colorado's attempt to take two of three from the Cardinals fell apart early in a 13-7 loss.
The Rockies' trip continues at PNC Park before concluding in Boston, and the matchup with the Pirates has to be as concerning to Walt Weiss' club as any right now. Pittsburgh has outscored Colorado 57-30 in winning the series' last seven meetings, all in Denver after polishing off a sweep there late last month.
Starling Marte (17 for 34, two homers), Jordy Mercer (12 for 30) and Josh Harrison (11 for 27) are all hitting at least .400 in the past seven against Colorado while Andrew McCutchen has hit three homers and has a .531 on-base percentage.
Pittsburgh has also won seven of eight at PNC in the series, holding the Rockies to 21 runs.
Cole (4-3, 3.05 ERA) will try to keep that going, and he should feel confident after posting his best start of the year Sunday against baseball's best team. After not throwing a pitch past the sixth inning in his first six starts, Cole made it through eight scoreless at Wrigley Field, holding the Cubs to three hits without a walk in a 2-1 win.
"(Cole) got sharper as the game went on," manager Clint Hurdle told MLB's official website. "The fastball command was plus-plus. Threw all his pitches for strikes. ... He was sharp, man. Really sharp."
The right-hander gave up four runs -- two earned -- over six innings in a 9-4 win at Coors on April 26.
Eddie Butler (2-1, 4.74) made his season debut out of the bullpen against the Pirates a day later and has made three starts since. He's sandwiched two below average outings around six scoreless innings in San Francisco, though allowing four runs and nine hits over five-plus earned him a 7-4 win over the Mets on Saturday.
The righty, who gave up a run in 2 1/3 innings against Pittsburgh last month, thinks he'll fare better this time.
"I'll be much more prepared this time, and it's a little different from facing them the one time through the lineup as a reliever compared to facing them three or four times as a starter," Butler said.
Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco is 9 for 19 with a homer, triple and four doubles on this 10-game homestand."

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